The God whose very essence is love did not hardwire humans to fail. Holiness, connectedness with God, being conformed to the image of Messiah, the spiritual transformation that produces a succulent crop of love, joy, and peace – these are the goals of every serious apprentice of Jesus. The false teachers that plagued those shepherded by Peter and Paul conveniently excused lives of greed and licentiousness by twisting freedom into indulgence, and thereby missing the point. “Let us sin so grace can abound.”
Nevertheless, there is something to be said for “Felix culpa.” The mystery of the apparent contradiction is that while sin (missing the mark), and even deliberate transgression, is never advisable, always hurtful, ever damaging, consistently destructive, and invariably flows from a human heart in rebellion against all that is good, it is, at some level, also quite necessary for us to go through. The same sins and resultant consequences that wound us, others, creation, and God, also reveal the shadowy sides of ourselves, exposing them to hygienic divine light.
It is right that we regret our broken relationships, the decisions that steer us into addictions, the selfishness and anger that wound others, and the greed that destroys the planet. It is healthy to weep and cry for mercy.
Mature people seek to forgive and be forgiven, to reconcile and make amends before resolving to do better.
But, in addition, the wise look back on sin and regret recognizing that the failure and fumbling were necessary. If we never fall, we will never skate. Continuously smooth seas make useless sailors.
For some of us, nothing short of the divorce, the job loss, the DUI, or the self-inflicted illness, with all the heartache, depression, hopelessness, despair and grief that follows, could expose the underlying and essential need for God. How else could I have recognized the damaging enabling disguised as charity? The slothfulness camouflaged as peacemaking? Avarice masquerading as good business?
I speak of us believers who begin assuming we know God. We mistake being loved and accepted by God with being fully formed into the divine likeness. We too often see conversion as a “one-and-done,” rather than the unremitting molding it is.
To face the failure is the key. To look the sin that caused the divorce or the addiction or the loss straight in the face without excuses, without blaming anyone else, and cry out for forgiveness, shedding tears of regret, is where we begin.
To seek forgiveness and reconciliation from others, to make amends as best we can, is the essential next step.
But don’t neglect God’s goal. Without fear of rejection, now free from guilt and shame, we ask, “Why did I need to go through that? What have I learned? What do I see now about myself that was previously unrecognized?”
Answers are generally slow in coming. Be patient. God is not in the tornado blasting the rocks.
Trust the gentle interior voice of love. In the divine whispers we hear truth. Light is cast on our shadows. Underlying fears of inadequacy are exposed. Slowly from the shadows we emerge. Our real selves – the genuine I in connection with all of creation, the authentic I God created – emerges as from a chrysalis.
We dry our wings and fly.